How did the idea of Donburi come about? This week, we look at the rice (rise – yes, pun intended) of Donburi over the years.

The Japanese first conceived the idea vaguely in the form of adding vegetables and dashi broth over rice. This manner of eating was commonly referred to as hōhan (芳飯) during the Muromachi Period (1330s – 1570s) and was also considered to be a religious dish of sorts.

When the economy became more urbanised in the Edo Period (1600s – 1860s), the concept of donburi began to take on a more distinct shape.

Unagi Don comprises steamed white rice, topped with grilled eel.

Undergoing modernisation, aspects of Japan’s culture evolved drastically, with no exception of their food scene. With increasing commercialisation, some believe the first donburi to be Una Don (うな丼, eel rice bowl), which was eaten at Noh theatre performances.

Due to the popularisation of tempura around that time too, there are also those who believe that Ten Don (うな丼, tempura rice bowl) could be one of the donburi pioneers as well.

The short form of Tempura Donburi (天ぷら丼ぶり) is “Ten Don” and consists of tempura topped with rice in a bowl.

From there, a myriad of donburi types sprung forth, especially so during the 1860s to the 1970s. Embracing westernisation starting in the Meiji Period and Taisho Period, the population’s eating habits changed, and food preparation methods saw diversification.


The famous Gyu Don or beef bowl came into being in the 1890s, followed by the Oyako Don in 1891, Katsu Don in 1920 and so on.

Donburi culture grew rapidly and was quickly recognised as the staple for the people.

Beef steak rice or also known as Bifuteki Don (ビフテキ) was created in the 1950s.

Consumption of donburi momentarily ceased during the warring years, though following shortly, we witness the creation of Bifuteki Don (ビフテキ, beef steak rice bowl) in the 1950s, and later the advent of seafood donburi.

(This feature is part of our upcoming event: Donburi Revolution which will be held from 19 to 21′ Oct at Marina Square Central Atrium. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for updates!) 




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